Pay Attention and See the Violets at Your Feet

  1. The Myth of Fairness
  2. The Myth of No Consequences
  3. The Myth of Sex Equalling Intimacy
  4. The Myth of Absolute Truth
  5. The Myth of Altruism
  6. The Myth of Shoulds
  7. The Myth of Right and Wrong
  8. The Myth of a Soul Mate
  9. If You Say It’s Impossible, It Is
  10. Pay Attention and See the Violets at Your Feet

Pay Attention and See the Violets at Your Feet–it’s really important to look around and see what’s actually going on. You’ll be amazed!

Psst! Hey!

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This expression comes from a story I wrote and included in my first book, Stories from the Sea of Life. (You can have a free digital copy by subscribing for our Phoenix Centre Press Mailing List)

Here’s the story:

In 1992, we bought our first dog, a lovely Australian Shepherd. (Her name, by the way, is Nishka. Her name is short for “Nishkamakarma,” which is Hindu for, “Do your duty, with faith in God, without attachment to the result of your action.” I have a poster of this word hanging in my office.) But I digress.

Nishka spent the Winter of ’92 doing what dogs in Canada do. She pooped on the snow. It melted in and got covered over with more snow. Come Spring, I went out to our backyard in my duck boots, with shovel in hand. I wandered around, and was amazed at the twigs, branches, paper, wrappers and poop that seemed to be everywhere. In fact, I calculated that our four-month winters are composed of 120 days. That means between 120 and 240 piles of poop. What a concept. But while thinking of this, I was looking around. As I looked closer, poking out of the grass was a riot of little, purple violets. I was transfixed, even as I picked up the poop.

Life may provide us with poop to shovel, but if we choose to look around, there is also beauty, order and wonder all around. As any farmer will tell you, what’s poop to one person is fertilizer to another.

Some day… my prince…

I’m thinking about how often people sigh and tell me about how hard their lives are — they then describe, longingly, how things are going to get better “some day.” You could say that they are living their lives in the future, and happiness is something that they never seem to “catch up to.”

What’s funny about all of this is that, as I regularly write, there is nothing “real” about any of the stories we tell ourselves, including happiness stories, whether they are in the present or the future. Our life stories are just a drama we invent. And if this is so, and I think it is, the solution to such fantasy is simple: We need to begin to notice the violets at our feet.

I once had a clients who was 58 — he told me he’d never been happy. I sent him home with an assignment — to open his eyes on the drive home, then go to his den and really listen to some music.

The following week he came in with a really confused look on his face. He hadn’t had a huge epiphany; he had, however, noticed a sunset, really heard a few conversations and lost himself in “Phantom of the Opera.”

Mystified, he asked what had happened.

I joked, “You’ve entered the Twilight Zone.” Then, “What happened was that you simply noticed what was there all along.”


Notice that I am not saying that all of his problems, dramas and existential reality ceased to exist. All of that is there too, in living colour. It’s the dog poop in all of our stories. The essential and often missed fact is that the poop is not the whole story, nor even an interesting part of the whole story.

The poop is the background noise.

You have to get this. We are nothing more than what we focus on. At a scary moment, I can condition myself to miss the moment by focusing on the past or the future. Or, at that same “fearful moment,” I can open my eyes. Poof, there is stunning beauty, and a grace filled universe.

A friend recently asked me what I do when “sitting” with dying people. I suggested she read Ram Dass’ Compassion in Action & How Can I Help?

I described what I call simply sitting. It’s simple. I sit and I breathe and I make physical contact. I talk, but only a little. Mostly, I just hang out and stay present.

When my mom was dying, I had an opportunity to do this. She had her last stroke on a Friday, and she died early Sunday. On the Friday she was semi-conscious, and I sat on the bed and stroked her head and kissed her and told her that I loved her; that it was OK, that she could let go — that we’d miss her, and that we’d be OK.

As I did this, I watched her relax, and then sink into a coma. I sat with her and repeated the words the next day, and made contact and breathed, and blessed her and her life.

Her death was “uneventful.” No drama, just a passing and a flowing away. While I grieved and still miss her, the essential beauty and calmness of that final sharing was the result of letting go of her — simply sitting — and avoiding story-telling, clinging and “awfulizing.”

Letting go of past and future dramas allows us to be in the moment and fully present, and in this, no matter what the circumstance, to see the violets. There is great beauty in birth, life and death — in all of life.

Breathe, my friends, and open your eyes and ears and, just for a while, close your mouth. See with the expectation of truly seeing what you’ve been missing. Do not deny the existence of “poop,” but rather accept its presence and “reality” nearby. Shovel it, clean it up, but don’t cling to it.

When you breathe and “truly see,” I guarantee you will be flooded with sunsets, with the words and presence of others, and hear music beyond belief.

And violets.


As you “just sit.”


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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